It’s been hate-crime week – no, not promoting it, trying to get people to report it. I spent an hour in a supermarket handing out leaflets. I find it a quite difficult subject to approach someone with. If they look as if they belong to a minority group then closing in on them brandishing a leaflet can look as though they’ve been singled out – not the effect we’re looking for. On the other hand the majority, white, heterosexual couples are not normally concerned about hate-crime. My technique, rightly or wrongly, was to approach everyone in the same way and suggest that if they knew someone who might be the subject of a hate-crime then they should report it.
The majority of people took a leaflet although whether they then read it I doubt. A number of people refused a copy and some of those were people that I would put in one of the protected minority groupings. Perhaps they try to avoid all contact out of fear. A few people showed some interest. There was no-one who, I felt, avoided me because of who I was – a bloke in a skirt – which shows that either I am passed noticing or that generally people don’t care.
Whether the “report hate-crime” message gets through is another matter. The reported incidence of hate-crimes is relatively low in most places but is thought to be wildly inaccurate. Those people who experience hate-crime either have no faith in the police ability to make things better for them or they are afraid of repercussions or both. As I am lucky to have never experienced any problems when I’ve been out and about I do not have any personal knowledge but I can imagine that living with the threat of abuse because of who you are must be one of the most stressful things there can be.
I did make transphobia the “crime” in one of Jasmine Frame’s earliest adventures. Discovering Jasmine appeared here first but is now available, in edited form, as an e-book – see the Jasmine Frame Publications page.
Talking of which here is the second episode of the new Jasmine Frame novella, prequel, Flashlight.
Flashlight: part 2
‘Gosh, James, you look awful. Do you feel OK?’
Angela stood in centre of the living room staring at James as he entered. James wasn’t surprised by Angela’s declaration. He slumped into the sofa and looked up at his enervated but concerned wife through half-lidded eyes.
‘I’m not ill, just drained.’
Angela knelt beside him, her face a picture of compassion. ‘A difficult day?’
‘Yes. We had a body.’
‘Oh, but you’ve been to a death before. Why has this one affected you so much?’
James pulled himself into a sitting position and placed a hand on Angela’s shoulder. ‘I’ll tell you all about it, I need to, but can I have a cup of coffee, first.’
‘Of course.’ Angela jumped up and ran into the kitchen. James heard the kettle being put on and mugs being prepared. A variety of thoughts competed for attention in his head.
‘God, it slipped my mind,’ he called, one memory rising to the surface. ‘You had your exam today. How’d it go?’
‘Fine,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
‘They’re all finished?’
‘Yes. Just got to hope I get the results and then I can start matching your pay.’
James snorted. ‘You’ll soon be earning way more than a police salary from all those corporate types.’
Angela returned with two mugs in her hands.
‘One black coffee for you sir,’ she said handing over one mug. ‘I was hoping we could have a bit of fun tonight, like we did last Wednesday, but you’d better get your dead body experience off your chest first.’ She sat next to James on the sofa.
‘Hmm. It’s Wednesday again. I’d forgotten. I wonder…’
‘Wonder what?’ Angela said, pausing in sipping her got coffee.
‘I’ll tell you the story first.’ James took a deep breath. ‘Gavin and I got a call this morning to go to a block of flats. A friend of the one of the occupants was worried that she hadn’t been seen for a few days. The friend had got hold of a key from a neighbour and let herself in. She found the occupant on the floor in the living room. She rang for an ambulance on her mobile and we got the call too. The paramedics were there first but they couldn’t do anything. She was dead already, cold.’
‘How did she die?’
‘The paras said it looked like a drug death. We found a syringe near the body.’
Angela gripped James’ arm with her spare hand. ‘Oh, that’s awful. But why are you so upset, James. You’re trained to deal with things like that. God knows how. I’d be a mess.’
‘It’s because I recognised her,’ James said looking into Angela’s eyes.
‘You knew her? Who was she?’
‘No, I didn’t know her. I recognised her. She was the girl, the trans-girl, who offered me drugs in the Marquis last week.’
‘She was a druggie?’
‘Well, that’s the strange thing. She was dealing drugs but when the paras examined her they said they couldn’t see signs that she was a frequent injector. Of course they couldn’t do much, it was a job for the pathologist.’
‘Did you say you recognised her?’
James bit his lip, ‘I almost blurted it out but I remembered how we’d met. If I admitted seeing her I’d have to give myself away as trans too.’
‘That’s why I am wreck. I’ve spent all day wondering if I’m going to have to out myself and what will happen.’
‘Oh, James. Would it really be that bad?’
‘You’ve met some of the lads, Ange. We’ve all been through diversity training so they’ve learned how to speak nicely to Asians and gays. But trannies? It’s the last free zone for bloke humour. I’m not sure I could take it, let alone what it might do to my career.’
Angela placed her mug on the floor and put her arms around James.
‘Ok, love. I understand. What did you do?’
‘Well, of course there was procedure to follow. Get everyone out of the flat, seal it off and stand guard while SOCO and the plainclothes guys arrived. It was pretty boring actually, plenty of time to stand, think and worry. But I caught a few things.’
‘Well, Natalie, that’s what her friend called her, was a pre-op transsexual – on hormones but hadn’t had any surgery. She was mid-twenties. According to her friend, who’s also trans, but a bit older, she didn’t have a steady job, did a bit of bar work, that sort of thing.’
‘Was that a problem?’
‘Well, the Gender Identity Clinics like you to hold down a proper job if at all possible during your real-life trial.’
‘But her friend said Natalie wasn’t a drug user. She didn’t mention the dealing, at least from what I overheard.’
‘So are you going to tell the investigating officer what you know?’
‘I’m not sure. Things may be a bit more complicated.’
Angela gave her confused look. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Just before the end of our shift, DCI Sloane arrived.’
‘Who’s he?’ Angela’s expression hadn’t changed.
‘He’s head of the Violent and Serious Crime unit, based over in Kintbridge.’
‘He wouldn’t turn up for an accidental drug overdose unless there was something more to it.’
‘Well, perhaps Natalie was murdered and it was made to look like she’d killed herself or perhaps there’s a big drug racket going on.’
‘You don’t know?’
‘No. DCI Sloane didn’t speak to me or Gavin. I don’t think he even noticed us. He’s got a reputation.’
‘What kind of reputation?’
‘He gets things done but you don’t get in his way. He’s a big guy, physically and in the force.’
‘Are you going to tell him what you know then?’
‘Yes, but not yet.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘If I just tell him that this girl offered me drugs, he’ll want to know when and where and what I was doing in the Ladies at the Marquis. I’ll have to explain about Jasmine and all for nothing really. I don’t know anything about what Natalie was doing. Was she working alone? Did the club know what she was up to? Where did she get the drugs from?’
‘I want to be able to tell Sloane more than I saw this girl selling drugs in a Ladies loo.’
‘How can you do that?’
‘You said you wanted to celebrate. How about another evening at the Marquis? You did say it was trans-night every Wednesday.’
Angela pushed herself away from James and looked at him closely.
‘Aren’t you going to get into trouble withholding information, James? It sounds dangerous.’
‘I could be in trouble already, Ange. It hit me as I was coming home. It’s why I looked pretty sick when I walked in.’
‘It hit me. If I’d reported being offered drugs at the Marquis straight after we’d been there last week, the place may have been raided; Natalie may have been arrested or something and she might still be alive. Her body was in the flat for days. She might have died soon after I saw her.’
Angela covered her mouth with her hand. ‘Oh, James, do you really think so.’
‘Yes, Ange. Natalie may have got involved in drug-dealing to pay for her transition. Even though I’m not like her, I think, we have something in common. I think I owe it to her to find out more before I go to DCI Sloane.’
Angela stood up and stared down at James, her face full of anger. ‘This is about you, James, not this Natalie. You can’t decide whether you want to be Jasmine full time can you?’
James stood up and opened his arms to embrace Angela. She stepped away from him.
‘You’re right, Ange. I don’t know,’ he said, feeling the anguish in his chest. ‘I know I love you and don’t want to lose you. You’ve always been good to me when I’ve been Jasmine.’
Angela sighed. ‘I know, I like Jasmine. It’s always been fun when we’ve been two girls together. But I love James.’
‘Exactly, which is why I want to stay as we are.’
‘For now perhaps, James, but I’m not sure that will always be your answer.’
James was silent. He knew Angela was right. His feelings about his body and his gender altered by the day. Some days the urge to become Jasmine was very strong, others just a niggling itch.
He spoke softly. ‘I am concerned about how and why Natalie died, and why she was dealing drugs. It’s not just about me.’
‘I know,’ Angela said and stepped into his arms.
‘So, do you fancy another evening of dancing?’
Angela looked into his eyes. ‘Yes, as long as you are careful.’